Sunday, 7 January 2018


In year six, a few of the boys in my class started what they called a "gay club". This wasn't what one might think a "gay club" would be consisted of - but then this was year six. The club would wander around the playground, telepathically zoning in on gay people (arbitrarily pointing at random), yelling things like, "AAARGH! I'VE PICKED UP A GAY!". Most people thought this was hilarious. I thought it was insufferable.

I tried several tactics to stop them - using my (self-imposed) status as Superintendent of the LSPD (local school police department) to run an investigation; following them around to casually remind everyone they pinpointed that they probably didn't know what "gay" meant, anyway; and bursting into hysterical tears to yell that I knew people who were gay, and that it shouldn't be used as an insult at all. That shut them up.

See also: my defence of homosexuality in year 7 (which, apparently, made me gay for a year or so); my defence of homosexuality in year 8 (ditto); my defence of homosexuality in year 9 (by which time people were sapient enough to understand what I was getting at; I was beginning to be surprised at this point that I was still the only one making the points that I was making). The fact that I knew gay people was occasionally wheeled out as a final point of justification, at which everyone usually demanded to know who (as if that person or persons would suddenly walk around the corner).

I'd hope, of course, that even without knowing my mum's best friend and her partner, I wouldn't have flirted with the amount of casual homophobia boys in my local area tend to adopt as a badge of how much into sports they are. But this will have to remain hope, because I did know them. I've known them since I was born.

My mother met her best friend - her dear heart - when she was at university. They clicked, and they've been the closest ever since. I can see why - her friend is smart, funny, friendly and homely: she radiates an aura which makes one feel like you are sitting by a fire with a Peanuts book and a cup of tea, which is exactly what I spent most of my time doing during our frequent stays at their house in the Midlands (well, that, and playing Alex Kidd in Miracle World on their Master System in the spare room or watching soft porn on their cable TV - although I only did that once...). As I grew into adulthood, I began to visit them independently, and discussed more wholesome pursuits like why they should be watching Father Ted and why I was able to access my university's network from their computer so I could waste my time do some of my coursework from their lounge. I even confided in them my secret crush, which (up until then) had been a secret.

My mum's friend came with her formidable partner - a Scottish lady with a beautiful accent, severe haircut and similarly warm radiation, so much so that being in a room with them was like a Mediterranean summer's day. They worked well together, had a lot of time for each other, and showed that there was a lot of love between them, in the same way my parents did; during my youngest years, nothing about them came close to being unusual or unworldly. I started school at 4 (or 2, if you count nursery) already knowing an openly gay couple, so I didn't need to be told it wasn't "wrong". I already knew.

I wish I could say that this was the only reason that my mum's friend's partner's recent death was a bit of a blow. But I can't say that. Her sole purpose wasn't to teach me that some people are gay (in fact, I don't think either of them even mentioned it once - they just were). She told me a lot about dogs, lent me books and audio tapes, laughed at my jokes, listened as I talked her through how to change the sounds on her computer, and tried to convince me that living in Grantham was nothing to do with Margaret Thatcher (although I suspect that they were the only two Labour voters in Grantham during the 80s). She liked children, animals, and other people, and was excellent company.

When I was asked to write something for people to include in her memorial, my first thought was that I should mention how her relationship with my mother's friend was my first contact with homosexuality, and that I was blessed by this, letting me grow up without the prejudice that a lot of my friends displayed. But I wrote a paragraph without mentioning it. If there's anything one can take away from life, it's that someone's sexual orientation shouldn't be an issue. Everyone is an individual, and the fact that she was gay doesn't matter any more than her grey hair, love of dogs, ability to make a good cup of tea, affinity for Call My Bluff, or frustration with the first level of Alex Kidd in Miracle World.

My mother shall miss her. And so shall I.

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